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BLOG Expat Life in Turkey and What to Expect

23 July 2017 / Culture


Expats Life in Turkey

When contemplating idyllic lifestyles, expats living in Turkey have won many fans. From the standard of living to the rich culture and popular cities, Turkey is now where digital nomads and retired pensioners flock. This Muslim country promotes Western cultures while keeping true to traditional roots, and many foreigners have obtained a Turkish residence permit from larger cities to small coastal resorts and rural villages to live here permanently. However, like any place, there are aspects that digital nomads and foreign citizens should know about. Let's look at what they are.

                                                 Expat Living in Turkey

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Is Turkey a Good Place for Expats to Live?

Most towns have communities of expats who call Turkey home because the country presents opportunities and experiences for expats to enjoy history, culture, and natural beauty. The country's welcoming atmosphere and reasonable living costs make Turkey an attractive destination, and yes, Turkey is a good place for expats to live. But what are the specific reasons?

Outdoor Experiences: From the ancient city of Troy to the majestic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, expats enjoy thousands of historical monuments and attractions. From the underground cities of Cappadocia, UNESCO historical sites, and Aegean beaches, Turkey's diverse geography offers everything. Outdoor enthusiasts will also enjoy many activities, from hiking in the Taurus Mountains to relaxing on sunny beaches.

Average Costs of Living: Turkey offers expats affordable living costs compared to Western countries. Some expats set themselves up on direct debits from their banking systems and efficiently manage their households from abroad. The cost of living varies depending on the location, but expats will find cheaper costs outside big cities.

Cultural Integration: Turkish citizens appreciate efforts to engage with the language and cultural differences, facilitating smoother integration into the community. However, don’t panic if your Turkish language skills are not up to par. Many expats settle in touristic resorts because English is widely spoken.

Safety and Security: Turkey, in general, is safe for expats. While it's essential to stay informed about the political landscape, security concerns are not significantly different from those in other European countries. Exercise standard precautions, and most expats feel secure in their new home.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Turkey is home to historical, cultural, and natural wonders, several of which are UNESCO Heritage attractions. The UNESCO World Heritage list in Istanbul includes famous landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. Hierapolis, an ancient spa city, and Pamukkale, known for white terraces of mineral-rich travertine, together form a UNESCO heritage site. Knowing about the history of Turkey is a great way to adapt to living here.

                                      What are the Bad Things about Living in Turkey?

Although much of Turkey offers excellent quality in everything it does, like any foreign country, there are cons to life that every average person should consider.

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Traffic and Transportation: Major cities like Istanbul experience heavy traffic congestion. Public transportation is available and generally efficient, but traffic-related stress occurs particularly in urban areas.

Economic Challenges: While the cost of living is lower compared to Western countries, economic uncertainties and fluctuations in the Turkish economy may pose challenges for foreign nationals, particularly for employment opportunities and currency rate exchange.

Healthcare System Variability: While major cities offer high-quality healthcare facilities, rural areas may have limited access to medical services. Understanding the healthcare system and Turkish hospitals and having appropriate health insurance is crucial.

Educational Options: While international schools are in major cities, quality English education in some regions may be limited. Expats with children may need to consider educational options carefully.

Red Tape and Bureaucracy: Important processes are frustrating in Turkey because of complicated red tape. Expat groups on Facebook and in real life are reliable sources. Other expats hire fixers, who will translate and carry out the process for an extra cost.

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Where Do Most Foreigners Live in Turkey?

Live in Istanbul: Delightful Istanbul, this beautiful country's cultural and economic heart perfectly blends history and modernity. In the Sultanahmet district, enjoy the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque's awe-inspiring architecture, making this area popular among history enthusiasts. Out of all the expensive cities in Turkey, Istanbul ranks at the top, so this is something to bear in mind.

Beautiful Antalya: Antalya, along Turkey's Mediterranean coast, offers expats natural beauty, gorgeous beaches, and relaxed lifestyles. Areas like Lara Beach provide stunning sea views, luxurious amenities, and Mediterranean climates that attract retirees and those desiring coastal paradises. Antalya gives off the vibes of European cities, thanks to the various nationalities who live there.

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Bodrum Peninsula: The Bodrum Peninsula offers several picturesque settings for expats enamoured with the Aegean allure. With its crystal-clear waters and exclusive resorts, Bodrum attracts sophisticated crowds, including celebrities and international jet-setters. Bodrum is one of the more westernised cities and easy to settle in.

Izmir City Centre: Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city, is an attractive option for more relaxed urban lifestyles with Westernised attitudes. The Alsancak district of this Turkish city, with its seafront promenade, boutique shops, and vibrant atmosphere, is famous for the best of both worlds. Meanwhile, the coastal town of Cesme, on the outskirts, is known for thermal baths and pristine beaches and has become sought-after by retirees seeking upmarket lifestyles.

Ankara: As Turkey's capital city, Ankara attracts more working ex-pats than retired pensioners. However, Ankara delivers everything families want from expat cities, from excellent schooling to more affordable housing than Istanbul.

About Health Insurance Plans in Turkey

Health insurance is essential for both locals and expatriates. Turkey's healthcare system comprises public and private providers, and health insurance helps ensure access to quality medical care. Please note that even if you stay for six months, travel insurance is not enough because providers won't pay for extended visits. You must purchase extra insurance for extended stays to get your residence permit. In Turkey, there are many foreign health insurance providers.

Social Security Institution (SGK): Citizens and legal residents in Turkey are eligible to enrol in the public health insurance system through the Social Security Institution (SGK).SGK covers many healthcare expenses, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications.

Private Health Insurance: Sometimes, expatriates and locals complement public coverage with private health insurance for more comprehensive and tailored healthcare services. Sold by foreign health insurance providers, they offer different coverage levels, premiums, and additional benefits for private hospitals. Private health insurance plans in Turkey cover various services, including hospital stays, surgeries, outpatient care, dental services, and maternity care. In many cases, ex-pats enjoy high-quality medical care.

Your Income and Foreign Exchange Rates

Digital nomads who register for tax residency are liable for income tax, regardless of where it comes from, and income tax rates vary depending on the level of income. Homeowners who make rental incomes must also pay income tax, irrespective of whether they live here all year round.

Otherwise, expats who get an income in foreign currencies should shop around to get the best foreign exchange rate to maximise how far their income stretches. Also, learn about the banking systems in Turkey, which have incredibly high-interest rates. Additionally, currency exchange companies will issue debit cards to take advantage of current exchange rates.

From Temporary Residency Visa to Permanent Residency

When people first come to live in Turkey, they will get a temporary residency visa for one year. People under 65, when applying for a temporary residency visa, will also need private healthcare insurance and proof they have income to support themselves. Apply for a temporary residency visa in the district where you plan to live.

After this, reapply for a two-year visa. After five years of residency, expats are eligible for permanent residency, also known as a long-term residence permit. However, be aware the application is not guaranteed. Another way real estate investors get permanent residency is by applying for the golden visa, which involves property investments of at least $400,000.

Buying Property in Turkey

If you plan on buying property in Turkey, see our portfolio of apartments and villas for sale. From city to waterfront living, to beach towns and more, house buyers in Turkey can choose from many places. Some people want to own property near warm waters of gorgeous beaches; in this case, they choose destinations on the Aegean or Mediterranean coast that match Western standards thanks to thriving tourism trades. The pristine coastline also delivers environmental cleanliness, with blue flag beaches boasting exceptional water quality. Otherwise, if daily life in a big city appeals, the three most prominent cities are Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Turkish Citizenship by Real Estate Investment

Turkey offers citizenship through its real estate investment scheme, providing an enticing opportunity for investors seeking to become Turkish citizens. Through this program, individuals attain citizenship by making qualifying real estate investments, typically valued at specified minimum amounts. 

By acquiring Turkish citizenship through real estate, investors gain access to several benefits, including visa-free travel to numerous countries and living in a nation renowned for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant lifestyles, and strategic geographic location bridging Europe and Asia. This streamlined process has made Turkish citizenship appealing for a harmonious blend of investment and a new chapter in life. (Learn about Turkish citizenship.)

International Schools for Expat Families

Turkey boasts several international private schools with world-class education, mainly in the expat cities.  Among these institutions, the best include Istanbul International Community School (IICS), which offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and commitment to holistic development in a foreign country. Another standout is Koc School, recognised for its rigorous academic programs and state-of-the-art facilities.

Additionally, MEF International School in Istanbul is celebrated for its diverse curriculum, emphasising innovation and critical thinking. These institutions prioritise English-language education, promote cultural diversity, and often offer advanced placement programs, providing students with well-rounded and internationally recognised education. Overall, the best international schools in Turkey are characterised by their commitment to academic excellence, global perspectives, and preparing students for success in a rapidly changing world.

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Turkish Culture Shock and Language

As much as the beautiful beaches of the turquoise coast are a big lure, it is also essential to understand the culture of this foreign country. It is the little things that often confuse people from Western cultures. For example, newcomers to the country wonder why Turks shout. However, this is just the way they talk. From the tipping culture to Islamic holidays to the family home, try to understand as much about Turkish culture as possible.

In our experience, most people adapt, and only the odd expat experiences culture shock, thanks to the cons of life. Likewise, just learning one word of the Turkish language a day will help expats settle in. Also, learn about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of Turkey, and how he made this a secular country to understand Turks truly. (More about Turkish culture.)

About Us

We are Turkey Homes, a seasoned real estate professional passionate about turning dreams into reality. With years of experience in the Turkish real estate market, we are trusted advisors for clients seeking their perfect home or investment property. We combine market expertise with a personalized approach, ensuring smooth and successful transactions. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned investor, our blog will be of more interest to expats planning to live in Turkey.

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